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Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Check and done!

I can finally breath!

As of bright and early this morning, all of the Christmas gifts and stocking stuffers have been purchased.  That is always such a relief.  Now, I just hope Amazon Prime delivers and gets everything to Massachusetts post haste.

I will still have to wrap everything when we arrive, but I can't do anything about that now so - check and done!

And I had a little help from an elf named Sarah and we finished the Christmas cards last night.  They will hit the mail box this morning so - check and done!

I still have to pack for our trip but that will happen tonight and tomorrow which leaves me a little free time - something I have been sorely lacking in the last few weeks. 

So at 9:00 I will be sitting at Chick-Fil-A drinking coffee with some friends from my old MOPS group. (And MOPS is Mothers of Preschoolers if that tells you how long I've been friends with these ladies!)  After that I will be eating lunch with my BFF and catching up with her. 

It always feels good to get to this point where you can feel some relief and actually start to enjoy the season. 

And amidst all of our Christmas preparations, Sparkle the elf has been busy.  I've tried to be a little more creative with Sparkle this year because Sarah still believes he's magical and I've got a feeling that next year this time, she won't.

Look how we found him this morning:

I guess he's hoping for a white Christmas. 

Monday, December 15, 2014

Gingerbread cookies with Sarah and Dan.

On Sunday afternoon, Dan and Sarah made gingerbread cookies.  It's an annual tradition for the two of them because Dan loves gingerbread cookies and I can't roll any kind of cookie with any success so he has to take matters into his own hands.  He does a great job at it and Sarah loves to help him so it's become their thing.

Peter usually pops in to help cut out a few and I'm always around to take pictures but it's become a daddy/daughter tradition around here.  Peter was at a friend's house working on a science project yesterday but my brother dropped by to fill in. 

Here are a few pictures from the afternoon:

And now all that's left to do is eat them all. Shouldn't be a problem because they are delicious.  And what makes them even better is the frosting. Dan loves cupcake frosting so they always whip up a batch to eat with the gingerbread men. YUM.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014


Yikes!  Has is already been more than a week since my last post?  You can tell it's been crazy over here.

PTO planning meetings, basketball practice and games, scouts, church, a sleepover, no school on Monday, ordering Christmas cards, homework,more homework, and just life have taken up my week.

Oh, and in the middle of all that crazy - my printer stopped working so I downloaded a new driver.  While I was doing that, my computer informed me that I had a bunch of Windows updates that were available if I wanted to install them.

So I did.  And everything was fine until Peter got on the computer to start playing his beloved Minecraft.  He then informed me that the screen was flicking on and off.

I looked at everything I had updated and discovered that I had updated the graphics card.  And apparently (at least that's all I could think of and Google helped me confirm), the update effected the game.  He played on it for 5 days before informing me that all the screen flickering was really bothering him. 

Yesterday, I "refreshed" Windows.  What this means is that Windows was put back to factory settings.  All my files were saved but any programs I had loaded on my computer that didn't come with it were deleted.

After the refresh, I had to add the following programs back to the computer: McAffee, Firefox, Adobe Flash, Adobe Reader, Java, Roblox, Windows Mail, Excel, and Word. 

And it only took me about two hours. And I say "only" just a weeeeee bit sarcastically because I have about a million other things I could be/should be doing with my time.

But Minecraft is fine now.  Except Peter informed me that the refresh wiped away all of the worlds he has worked so hard to build and had he known that he would have rather dealt with the flashing screen. 


If you need me today, I'll be parked in front of this computer (and it better not have any issues because I've pretty much maxed out my IT skills) ordering Christmas gifts for the family.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

Tuesday, December 2, 2014


I've got a few things taking up space in my brain this morning so I thought I'd dump them out here.  Lucky you. But that's what #Babble is all about!

I saw quite a few Facebook status updates and tweets yesterday trumpeting the fact that people are done - DONE! - with their Christmas shopping.


I haven't even started yet. 

And Christmas cards?  Apparently quite a few people already have theirs in the mail.  Showoffs.

I haven't even taken one picture of the kids posing in front of the tree in pretty clothes yet, which means of course, that I haven't ordered any cards yet. 

Oh, and remember when my computer crashed a couple of months ago?  Well, my address list was conveniently stored in an Excel spreadsheet so I could easily print out labels. That's gone.

And did I mention that we leave for Massachusetts on December 19th?  That's 17 days from now.  If anybody is going to get any presents or Christmas cards from the Cotell family, they will all have to be ordered and shipped prior to the 19th.  Somebody better get busy!

And speaking of getting busy - someone has been busy eating.

Right before we left for our trip to Washington, D.C., I had lost 12  of the 23 pounds that I wanted to lose.

I knew I was going to go off the diet on our trip because there was birthday cake, milkshake from Ted's and lots of opportunities to eat out.  And I knew I wasn't going to miss any of that.

When we got back from our long weekend, I stepped on the scales and had gained about 4 pounds back.  This was expected, because when I say I went off the diet, I went waaaaaaaaay off!  But I will say, I enjoyed every morsel! 

I had two weeks between the trip and Thanksgiving and I lost 2 of those 4 pounds but I wasn't too concerned because I knew that on Thanksgiving, I was going to eat whatever I wanted.  And I did.  And it was good!  And I don't regret that decision one bit.

And now Christmas is looming.  I am going to follow the Atkins plan until we leave on the 19th and be off the diet  until  January 5th.  I am hoping to eat in moderation (ha!) during our vacation and not gain too much back and then start in earnest again in January.  We'll see how the eating in moderation goes. 

I have a PTO meeting in the morning where we will be making our initial plans for Catholic Schools Week in January and I don't want to show up empty-handed and idea-less so I better quit all this babbling and get to work.  And to shopping.  And to Christmas carding.


Monday, December 1, 2014

Forget the bass - this is all about the tree, bout the tree....

Friday morning we set out for the mountains of North Carolina in search of the perfect tree.

The ride to Laurel Springs was beautiful and there was still some snow on the mountains left from a snow earlier in the week.

Amid arguing over which tree was best (the kids  have equally strong yet totally opposing opinions), throwing snow balls (sometimes it's best to let off a little steam), and trying to channel our inner mountain goat so as not to trip on the side of the mountain (okay, hill, but it was still hard walking at an angle), I think we found a great tree! 

Road trip selfie with  a photobomb!

So pretty!

This is the one we choose!

And of course, we had to have the guy that chopped the tree down take our picture in front of it!

We headed to North Wilkesboro for lunch at Brushy Mountain BBQ and Creamery.  The kids were very excited about the creamery part of the name.  Unfortunately, after we found it, we realized it was closed.  Boo!

So we headed to the cute little downtown a couple of minutes away and found several  restaurants.  I was leaning towards the wing and pizza joint but the kids saw an Italian restaurant and decided that was more to their liking.  Of course, what did they get??  Um, pizza. 

When we got home, Dan put the lights on the tree and we called it a day.  On Saturday morning we decorated the tree.  And when I say "we", I mean the kids.  I did a little directing but other than that the kids did 90% of the work themselves.  Dan popped in a couple of times to hang a few of his special ornaments but he was busy getting the lights and the wreaths up on the outside of the house.

Working together like good little elves!
 We took lots of posed cheesy shots while decorating the tree!

Dan is hanging a camel ornament that he painted when he was a kid.  Later, when he was stationed in Saudi Arabia during Desert Storm at Christmastime, his mom sent him this ornament as a reminder of home.  The kids always make sure Daddy gets to hang this one!

Hanging his Red Sox ornament!

Posing with her princess ornament.

So determined!

More determination!
Our tree is full of ornaments that are handmade or chosen with a specific event or person in mind and as we decorate, we are also reminiscing.  Our tree definitely wouldn't win any decorating awards but it's full of love and really, isn't that what Christmas is ultimately all about?

Thursday, November 27, 2014

What I Wore For Thanksgiving

It's been a while since I've posted a What I Wore Sunday so I thought I would make up for it by posting a What I Wore For Thanksgiving.

Shirt:  Kohls (purchased last fall when I was pregnant with Rebecca.  Nicely covers the remaining pooch!)
Jeans: Kohls (thinking that black leggings would most likely look better with this outfit or even tighter jeans!)
Boots: Target (last year's Christmas give from my mom!)

 And my little photographer wanted her picture take today:

Shirt: Target
Skirt: Walmart
Leggings: Target
Boots: Kohls

Happy Thanksgiving y'all!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Now thats my kind of crafting!

Yesterday, Cheyanne and Sarah were playing when they declared they wanted to do a craft.  Knowing that I would not want to be involved in any way, the girls Googled "thanksgiving craft", found something they wanted to make, gathered all the supplies, went outside and picked up pine cones, and made the entire craft by themselves.

And.  AND! (This is the best part of all!) They cleaned up the mess when they were finished and put all the supplies back into the closet.

Ten is a good age.  A really, really good age.

However, these days, ten also insists that you take pictures of them and post them to Instagram, so I obliged. 

Here are Sarah and Cheyanne mid craft:

And here they are with their finished craft:

I think they turned out great!

These little beauties would make great place card holders for your Thanksgiving Day table but Sarah wants to just place them around my mom's house (where we are having lunch).  Where ever she puts them, they will be adorable.

And way cuter than the potato turkeys Jennifer (Chey's mom) and I made with Peter and Colton's kindergarten class.  Check out that odd looking craft!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014


The kids are out of school all week and this morning I went for parent teacher conferences. It's always nice to get a chance to speak to the teachers and hear what they have to say about Peter and Sarah.  Usually it's no surprise what they have to say.  I am usually always well aware of what they point out as their strengths and as their weaknesses.

This morning I was told that one of my children had a great sense of humor and always kept the class laughing (but in a good way not a disruptive way). That made me smile and was something that I would have never expected.  Oh, to be a fly on the wall in both of their classrooms!

The kids were excited to have this week off because they really needed a break. Even though they both have homework, it's nice that they have a whole week to complete it and can do it at their leisure instead of rushing between homework, basketball practice, and scouts.

Dan is excited to have a long weekend as well. We'll be driving to the mountains to get our tree on Friday.  Last year was the first year we've ever had a real tree.  We are always gone for so long over Christmas that it never seemed to make sense to pay for a real one, enjoy it for 3 1/2 weeks and then come home to a half dead tree.

Last year we decided we were ready for a new tradition and a real tree so off we went to get one. The kids enjoyed the drive, picking out our very own tree, watching it being chopped down, and lunch at Taco Bell afterwards.  I could take or leave Taco Bell, so Dan and I have already picked out the BBQ joint we'll be stopping at on our way home.

Poor Dan has spent our entire marriage saying the fake tree looks nice but it just doesn't smell like Christmas without a real tree.  Last year was the first year in 13 that I didn't have to hear him complain about the fake tree.  It was totally work all the vacuuming I had to do in January!

I will leave you with a few pictures of our week so far:

This is Sarah hard at work on a book report that's due on Monday.  Sarah is a very good writer but she tends to write with a lot of flair.  And by flair, I mean extra words that don't really add anything to the report and that I know the teacher won't appreciate because they are basically superfluous.  She and I were butting heads during the editing process yesterday.

Another reason that the kids were excited for a week off from school is because they don't ever get to hang out with Colton and Cheyanne any more because of basketball practice.  They came over yesterday afternoon to play and Chey brought Sarah this beautiful hat that she knit for her!! Isn't it gorgeous?
Sarah and I like Kale chips and my BFF, Jennifer, turned me on to this kit.  The kale is already chopped an a seasoning packet is included.  So easy!! 
And so yummy.  Sarah and I snacked all afternoon on these two pans!  (That was half the bag of mix.)

* #Babble - This is my new blog feature. There are many times when I want to write about something but it doesn't really have a beginning or an end and is more stream of consciousness . I had been using 7QT for that but I've recently decided I don't want to necessarily wait for Fridays and I don't want to be confined to a list and I just want to babble on my blog when I want to babble.  And since it's my blog, and since everything has a # these days - #Babble it is!  When you see that in the title, you can be warned that the post is just me rambling about whatever is going on or whatever happens to be on my mind!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Back to square one.

A couple of weeks ago I asked Sarah if she had given any thought to what she wanted for Christmas. I have to start the kids thinking early because we have quite a few relatives that ask for suggestions and I'm always at a loss.  And unfortunately, the older they get, the harder it is to come up with gift ideas.

She told me that she knew exactly what she wanted but she was going to keep a secret so she could test to see if Santa was real or not.


So I mentioned it again yesterday after she had finished up her homework.  She got a big smile on her face and excitedly grabbed a sheet of paper and started writing.

I was relieved that finally this year, I might get a decent list from her.  She presented the list to me saying, "This is all I want for Christmas this year."

And then I read the list:


I told her that those weren't items that Santa could bring so she scratched them out and now the list is blank again.

Back to square one.

Monday, November 17, 2014

A Washington, DC birthday!

Peter wanted to go to Washington, D.C. for his birthday this year.  He also took him when he was 8 and when he was 10 so it just seemed right that we should do it again for 12!

Dan's sister, Cathy, lives in Alexandria which is mere minutes from D.C. so we stayed with her again.  And Dan's brother, Bob, also lives in Alexandria so we got to see him as well.  Both my kids were very happy!

We brought Peter's friend Joe along this year.  What a great kid!  Peter and Joe had a great time together and Joe is just the nicest guy!  On the drive home, Dan and I decided we should just keep Joe, but ultimately, we gave him back to his parents.

We left our house around 4:30 on Thursday evening and arrived in Virginia at 10:30.  We were up at at 'em early on Friday morning.  Cathy made breakfast and then we headed over to the Wasington Monument.  We had 10:00 AM reservations to go up to the top.  (I highly recommend reservations.  It only cost $1.50 per person for the reservation which beat just walking up, waiting in line, and hoping for a spot.  Totally worth the $9!  And it was especially nice since it was cold on Friday.  We literally walked right in to the monument.)

And the views were spectacular.

After the trip to the top of the Washington Monument we visited the American History Museum.  We then grabbed some lunch and then headed to the International Spy Museum.  The boys really enjoyed this museum.  And actually, so did the grownups.   There were a lot of hands on activities as well as lots and lots of exhibits.  The people at the ticket counter said it would take about 2 hours to go through but if you looked at everything in this museum, you could easily spend 4 hours in there.  The kids were bored after about an hour and a half which I thought was pretty good.  So then we headed outside for the Spy in the City.  You have to pay extra for this but it was worth it.

The museum issued us a tablet and it was programmed with a spy mission.  We were walking through the city tracking a spy, decoding clues, and transmitting data.  This mission was aimed for kids 10 - 12 and I think it was just perfect for us.  The kids had lots of fun doing it even though they knew it wasn't real. 

Heading into some duct work to do some spying1

After the Spy Musuem, we headed to Ford's Theatre.  Unfortunately, they wouldn't let us see into the theater because they were preparing for a play.  But we got to go through the museum and we also went into the house across the street and got to see the room Abraham Lincoln died in.

After that we headed back to Cathy's house for a delicious steak dinner and homemade chocolate birthday cake!

On Saturday morning, we headed out to see a few monuments.  We hit the USMC Monument, the WWII Monument and the Lincoln Memorial.

After that, we went to the White House.  We had a tour scheduled for Noon and we had to be there by 11:45.  We literally ran but got there in plenty of time.  We went through multiple security check points and finally made it inside.  The tour was self guided through the East Wing.  We did not get to see the president. The kids joked that he was probably on the gold course anyway and weren't too disappointed.  The kids however, were disappointed that we didn't  get to see their dog, Bo. 

 After the White House tour we grabbed some lunch and then stopped in to the Air and Space Museum and the National Gallery briefly. (The kids weren't at all interested in looking at paintings.  I would have liked to have spent some more time there however.)

And then, we headed to the open air ice skating rink at the Sculpture Garden.  This was at Sarah's request.  We were tired, but she had been such a trooper on this trip that we couldn't say no.  And, Joe was excited to try ice skating because he had never done it before.  They all had a great time!

After ice skating, we went to Mass at St. Patrick's which was built in 1792!  After Mass, we went to dinner at Ted's Bulletin and of course, got the best milkshakes known to man.  (They use all cream in their shakes - not milk!) 

And believe it or not, that was all we did!  :)